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REDCROSS COLORADO

This Sunday, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Denver Broncos. And believe it not, that has created somewhat of a quandary for me. Normally, it’s a no-brainer as to where my loyalties would lie. I’m a lifelong Eagles fan. (It took years of therapy to make that admission BTW.) But being in the disaster business, and working for the Red Cross in particular, it’s not that cut and dry — to the point where I’m actually asking myself, what should my rooting interest be?

I have nothing against the Broncos. I really like Peyton Manning and I like seeing him succeed. Colorado is beautiful. I don’t get to visit it to go skiing nearly enough.  I also have some wonderful Red Cross colleagues in Colorado. But this is the Eagles and if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to pull off an upset. So here’s my quandary.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news, knows Denver and the state of Colorado have been through a lot this summer (and the last year for that matter.) (KUSA-TV story via USA Today). The past few weeks I’ve seen incredible footage of homes being wiped away by flooding, all on the heels of terrible wildfires the past two summers. I’ve read and heard the stories of families who lost their homes to wildfires last summer, just to see them get washed away by flooding this summer. My colleagues in Colorado have friends and neighbors who were directly affected. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who must start over.

Now I realize a football game won’t fix any of that. I realize that it is, in fact, just a game. But history has shown us that sports can play a big role in healing cities and communities affected by tragedy. Think of the impact sports had on New York City (and the country) after 9/11. Who wasn’t pulling for the Yankees in that World Series? Just a few short years after Katrina, no one could deny the positive impact the Saints winning the Super Bowl had on the city’s psyche and economy. After Sandy, the Giants helped NY and NJ mentally recover, at least for a few hours every week. Everyone was a Red Sox and Bruins fan in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing. Rooting against those teams was almost sacrilege.

Which brings me back to this Sunday’s Eagles game against the Broncos. If the Eagles were playing the Cowboys, I admit, it may be a different story. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Cowboys, no matter the circumstance. That’s just a fact of life of someone from Philadelphia. But Denver is a different story.


REDCROSS

So what should I do? Let my lifelong love of the Eagles trump my genuine wish for the Broncos, in a small way, help the people of Denver feel better? Or toss my lifelong loyalty aside, this once, and root for a Broncos victory?

Ultimately, I turned to my Red Cross colleagues in Colorado for the answer. I saw through their tweets, photos, videos, and stories that demonstrated very clearly that the people of Colorado “got this.” With the help of agencies like the Red Cross and their fellow citizens, Coloradans are showing an unbelievable and inspiring resilience. Their ability to absorb what has happened and vow to overcome it, with no complaint, is remarkable.

Just like folks in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, Coloradans showed me that they don’t need me to root for their football team in order to feel loved and supported. Adversity brings out the best in us. It  brings out our selflessness. It brings out our love. It brings out our humanity. Those qualities make us winners and Colorado has plenty of all of them.

Go Eagles.

Day 3 – We were let out of our box!

Its still hot. Its only going to get worse too. I’m not used to so much humidity.

We all got to headquarters from our hotel and started our jobs. Wendy gave us some unfortunate news. Well.. It wasn’t really unfortunate. Bittersweet. Our first friend we met on this DR (job) was on her way to New Orleans to be a staffing manager. We exchanged Facebook friendships and she went on her own path of adventure.

There was still a lot of the same thing going on here. Disaster Service Technology makes a disaster operations world go ’round here. Computers need to be set up or taken down, networking issues, print errors.

It probably sounds boring, working on computers, but when you take it in a disaster response perspective, it wakes you up. It becomes more urgent than convenient. It gives you the opportunity to have a positive effect on someone who is afflicted with the negativity of tragedy. If you’re an IT-guy and still feel used and abused after that little pep talk, you need to join the Red Cross.

Finally, today we got a new opportunity. It can get kinda boring behind a desk. So when you get a chance to do field operations… You take it. Let me out of my cage and let me go wild!

Noel and I were requested to respond to the warehouse and install a work laptop for the logistics team. It was an easy service call, and we went about our way.

The Celtic Media Centre of Baton Rouge graciously opened up 2 of their studio lots for the American Red Cross to open up Staff Shelters. Celtic Media Centre is known for movies filmed there such as the famed “Twilight”.  The studio lots are huge. Alot of volunteers and responders will be calling this place “home” for a while. People don’t understand that it’s not all hotels and rental cars. At some point there will be a moment where the responder is really roughing it. It may not happen on this deployment, but eventually, it will happen. I mean, really… it’s a disaster zone. Don’t expect the Ritz when nature gives you the pits.

Today’s lesson of deployment… education and training. The best training I’ve found, is on-the-job training. I specialize in radio communications and technical deployment strategy, but here I’m spending 2 weeks learning hardcore network management and computer program and repair. And of course, be humble. There may have been a lot learned, but there is so much more to learn.

I’ve already started to lose track of days too. I’m finding myself going back to my bed, and falling asleep immediately. A lot of these posts are being written later, because I keep falling asleep.

 

Pete Wine is on deployment in response to Isaac in Louisiana

Noel Green and Pete Wine (left to right)

Day 1 – Saturday, 09.01.2012 
“Welcome to the Party”

It is of the utmost importance to take every possible precaution when packing and planning. The team I was assigned to had given us a list to go by. Of course, being the over-prepared Boy Scout, I added more things to that list.

Family is the 2nd important thing to consider when you are deploying. After my father passed away, I live with my mother and look after her. (insert the 30 year old living with Mom jokes.) I also have a pet pug dog named Molly. Needless to say, she’s going to be traumatized by this. My dog, not my mother.

I contacted my some of my close friends and requested that they check in on her periodically. We are told to plan for 2 weeks, however its possible that 3rd week could get slipped in on us if we are needed. Always make sure your own loved ones are taken care of.

It was 9:45 and time to get a move on. Yea, the flight was scheduled to leave at 1PM, but it’s a holiday weekend, and you have to get through security. I know it’s bad luck to say it, but it was too easy to get through everything. When you are heading on assignment to help people, you see generosity come out of the woodwork, even in the TSA.

Our first flight left right on time. No issues or problems. I’m a big guy, and I was concerned about seating. I have to hand it to Delta Airlines, they took amazing care of us. We must have had a heck of a tailwind too, because we made it to Atlanta almost a half hour early.

Noel put in some important calls to DSHR HQ, to find out how we were getting from New Orleans to Port Allen. I see a car rental in our future. Its about an hour and 45 minutes from NOLA to Baton Rouge according to our GPS, and that’s if roads aren’t flooded.

Up until now, it had just been Noel and I on this journey. In Atlanta at our gate, we met a nice lady named Wendy Flynn. She’s a Red Cross staffing manager from the Cape Fear Chapter, who is also heading to Port Allen. Noel and I invited her to tag along with us.

As I write this, we’re currently 80 miles north of New Orleans. The captain advised us we are making our initial decent, and will be arriving early. Twice in one day. Groovy. Noel and Wendy are catching up on a who’s who of Red Cross. I was chatting with a chill Australian tourist. I wish him a good journey….

By now, you’ve seen a couple pictures. Maybe even the one of us after we arrived. Had to rent a car, then it was on to Baton Rouge/Port Allen for check in. Louisiana greeted us with a small storm and some nice lightning. Between two weather nerds like Wendy and I (both Skywarn Spotters!), it probably looked like a scene out of “Twister”.

Cruising along I-80, we saw probably what was a fraction of the water that had been here during the storm. I can’t put into words, but I’m amazed. The Louisiana State Troopers are all over the highway holding it down. Closed roads all over the place.

I’ll be honest with you. I am not a fan of Alligators. And we did happen to see a couple along the highway in the “no-longer-low-laying” ditches. The storm pushed the marsh wildlife right up to the street. We saw street turtles and road gators. I may be a fat guy, but you’ll be impressed how quick I’m moving to get out of a gator’s way.

We got to Port Allen and checked in with our Philadelphia Director of Emergency Services, Leo Pratte! There are a bunch of us from the SEPA Chapter down here. Running into any of our team is a treat. And they are happy to see you too. The next person I ran into was SEPA – Delaware County’s DAT Leader and Logistics expert Joe Cirillo. A hug, a handshake, and a “see ya later”. He was going to a logistics meeting. I make a quick phone call to Philadelphia City DAT Leader Frank Nardo to see where he is. He’s currently busy at a MegaShelter in Gonzalez, LA. His shelter can hold up to 2,000 displaced residents. He was happy to hear Noel and I were joining the “party”.

The headquarters is also doubling as a bulk distribution center. It appears to be an old K-Mart, but it’s serving our mission. The parking lot is teeming with Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) and a couple Emergency Communications trucks. I will have to examine them closer tomorrow as part of the DST.

An ERV would pull up, get loaded up, and go on their mission’s way to get much needed supplies, comfort kits, or whatever is needed to help alleviate some of the suffering of the population. A lot of these volunteers have faces that show an undying passion, however are tired from hours of serving. They push on, with one goal in mind… To help. This alone is an inspiration to us.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived to the “party”, it was time to take it down for the night, rest up, for another day of fighting the war against tragedy that has occurred to the people of this area.

I’m not quite used to the one hour time change coming from the east coast, but it is enough to mess you up on the simplest things. Noel, Wendy, and Myself will be joined by another member at 0700 hours, to report for duty at 0730.

Of course, I called to check in with my family, as did Noel, reminding ourselves of the importance even talking to them brings us.

Im salty. Im ready. Im inspired. Tonight, I sleep. Tomorrow, WE HELP.

-Pete Wine
SEPA Chapter Emergency Communications Coordinator has been deployed with SEPA Chapter AmeriCorps member and veteran volunteer Noel Green to Louisiana to assist with the Red Cross response to Isaac.